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African Knowledges for Global Challenges

Series Conveners:

Adriaan van Klinken (Philosophy, Religion and History of Science)
Brendon Nicholls (English)
Lisa Thorley (Politics and International Studies)
Abel Ugba (Sociology)

Research Context

Africa is a central focus and concern of many projects and discourses relating to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). However, too often it is the place where Western theories are simply applied and, perhaps, slightly adjusted.

This seminar series aims to re-orientate scholarship, by foregrounding Africa as a starting point for articulating existing, and developing new knowledges relating to major societal challenges.

Our aim is to re-orientate scholarship away from Africa as a model of deficit. We seek not only to decolonise African Studies by including knowledge formation in the African academy, but also to democratise it by engaging with knowledges emerging outside of the academy in African communities.

A focus on African knowledges is particularly important in the light of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the subsequent UK-based Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) that is shaping UK research agendas and collaborations between UK institutions and academics, on the one hand, and partners in Africa, on the other.

If African communities are to participate in global challenges and if they are to be developed sustainably, we need to acknowledge their key role as stakeholders, and SDG/GCRF-related research has to be framed in ways that privilege African communities’ problem-solving capacities and intellectual priorities.

Research Aims

The seminar series provides a critical interdisciplinary space for pursuing a twofold question:

  •  What does a radical Africa-centred approach bring to bear, epistemologically and politically, on the understanding of “global challenges” relating to sustainable development?
  • How do such Africa-centred knowledges contribute to a decolonisation of GCRF and SDG discourses and practices?

Key readings

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Epistemic Freedom in Africa: Deprovincialization and Decolonization (London: Routledge 2018).
Brenda Cooper and Robert Morrell (eds.), Africa-Centred Knowledges: Crossing Fields and Worlds (Suffolk: James Currey 2014).
Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, Theory from the South: Or, How Euro-America is Evolving Toward Africa (London and New York: Routledge 2016).